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Riverside students learn money magic

Riverside students learn money magic

Riverside Middle School eighth graders began their journey to become money management magicians through a program that introduces financial literacy to elementary and middle school students across the Garfield Re-2 School District. From decoding the mysteries of taxes to unlocking the secrets of paying for college and even mastering the art of reading a pay stub, this program is like a treasure map for young learners. The Carbondale-based non-profit Youthentity partners with Garfield Re-2 to equip future leaders with the financial smarts they need in the future.

“Financial literacy is critical for our students,” explained Samantha Freese, Youthentity Director of the Financial Literacy Program. “First and foremost, we want youth to make smart choices about their future. This starts with making smart decisions regarding their money. At just 18, society asks youth to take out huge loans to pay for their education. We historically have not set young people up for success on this.”

During the week before spring break, Freese guided Riverside students through understanding pay stubs, ways to pay for college, the value of their degree in terms of income, and the basics of taxes—topics that aren't always covered in regular math classes.


Teacher with students

Personal financial literacy is part of the Colorado Academic Standards and is taught across the district. The standards include topics like world economics, tariffs, and trades, as well as personal finance, taxes, student loans, and how to balance a checkbook.  Youthentity currently partners with five elementary schools in Garfield Re-2 in addition to Riverside Middle School. 

Riverside Social Studies teacher David Way has been teaching personal financial literacy since 1998. Beginning in 2010, Youthentity connected with Way, and they took over the instruction of the unit.

Students are given a pre-test and a post-test for the unit and as an additional incentive, Youthentity pays students 50 cents for every question answered correctly on the post test in the hopes that they will open a savings account and practice the skills presented in the unit.

“The incentive to be part of our class is so that we complete the circle of Financial Literacy. The check the student receives (up to $15), is our way of standing behind our message,” said Freese. “This check allows students to open their first bank accounts, OR if they already have a bank account add to their savings. We want the program to not just stay in the classroom but allow our youth to bring our program to their real world. We have a partnership with Alpine Bank that allows students to open a low balance savings account.”

Both of Way’s daughters went through the unit and still remember many of the concepts.
“I wish I had learned these things when I was a kid in eighth grade,” said Way.  “I wish I had known about how to set up a set up good credit, pathways for paying for college and taxes.”
Freese added that the unit begins to empower students to make their own choices.

“I love seeing students realize how empowered they are to decide what their futures look like.Our programs allow young people to have the information they need to make the choices that are right for them,” she explained. “I find that students are really engaged once they start realizing how they can shape their own lives with this information.”